Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London

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Verso Books, Mar 24, 2015 - Social Science - 496 pages
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night,” wrote the poet Rupert Brooke. Before the age of electricity, the nighttime city was a very different place to the one we know today—home to the lost, the vagrant and the noctambulant. Matthew Beaumont recounts an alternative history of London by focusing on those of its denizens who surface on the streets when the sun’s down. If nightwalking is a matter of “going astray” in the streets of the metropolis after dark, then nightwalkers represent some of the most suggestive and revealing guides to the neglected and forgotten aspects of the city.

In this brilliant work of literary investigation, Beaumont shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake and his ecstatic peregrinations and the feverish ramblings of opium addict Thomas De Quincey; and, among the lamp-lit literary throng, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens. We discover how the nocturnal city has inspired some and served as a balm or narcotic to others. In each case, the city is revealed as a place divided between work and pleasure, the affluent and the indigent, where the entitled and the desperate jostle in the streets.

With a foreword and afterword by Will Self, Nightwalking is a captivating literary portrait of the writers who explore the city at night and the people they meet.

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Midnight Streets
The Middle Ages and After
Roisterers and Rogues in the Early Modern
Shakespeare Dekker
Night and the Enlightenment in the Eighteenth
Dunton Ward and their Descendants
Churchill Goldsmith and Pattison
Wordsworth Clare and Romantic
William Blake
Thomas De Quincey
The Early NineteenthCentury City
Dickenss Night Walks
The Old Curiosity Shop and Dickenss Fiction
The Man of the Crowd

Savage and Johnson

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About the author (2015)

Matthew Beaumont is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at University College London. He is the author of Utopia Ltd.: Ideologies of Social Dreaming in England 1870-1900 (2005), and the co-author, with Terry Eagleton, of The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue (2009). He has also edited Restless Cities (2010). He lives and walks in London.

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